We all know what a wet dog smells like, and sometimes, when you visit other dog owners' homes, you can smell wet dogs – it's not a pleasant smell. The pet deodorizing business has caught on to bathing of dogs, odors, and scents, and turned the business into something that is booming. Some natural food markets sell products that you put in your dog’s food or you apply something topically to eliminate odors.

Why Do Dogs Smell?

Stacey Hershman, a holistic veterinarian from New York, says the cause can be anything from the food ingredients used in your dog's meal to tooth or gum infections, or even urinary tract problems.

Another cause could be when too much bathing upsets the natural balance of your dog’s oils and that causes the dog to start smelling. It's the dog's own natural oils are what actually keeps them clean.

9 Ways to Make Your Dog Always Smell Fresh

Improper digestion is one of the common reasons why dogs smell. Upgrading your pet's diet is an effective way to address odor-causing problems.

1. Minimize Grains and Fillers in Your Dog's Diet

Pet foods which contain any type of grain are still popular with owners because they are cheaper than all-meat foods and they keep the dogs feeling full. But these ingredients can sometimes be difficult to digest for dogs. Filler ingredients are even worse, often giving dogs strong gas.

Decreasing the amount of grains, and switching to dog food brands that are higher in meat can solve this problem. For example, 30% protein performance foods might be a better choice. Alternatively, a raw diet that consists of muscle and organ meats, some veggies, and is supplemented with probiotics, prebiotics and digestive enzymes is likely to stress your pet's digestion less, and make the dog smell better as a result.

According to holistic veterinarian Stacey Hershman, DVM: “For those who can’t feed a home-prepared diet, upgrading to a better quality meat-based, low-grain, soy-free pet food can help.

homemade dog food recipe skin allergies
Homemade dog food for skin health (recipe here).

2. Try Homemade Diet

Another holistic vet, Dr. Cathy Alinovi from HealthyPAWSibilities, suggests something similar and in particular changing the dog’s diet from dry kibble to homemade meat based meals. She says that will take care of the issue at least 80% of the time, and that's because dogs process protein much more effectively.

Cathy mentions that it usually takes 3 weeks to notice a change in a dog’s coat and smell. She says that if after 3 weeks your dog is still smelly or yeasty, then a yeast cleanse should be indicated – this is where a holistic vet such as she would prescribe probiotics and anti-yeast therapies to help.

If a dog is prone to strong smelliness, then “there is something else going on. These dogs may also have greasy skin and dandruff,” she adds. Yeast is what causes a dog’s chronic ear infections and it could be a result of eating processed foods, particularly dry dog foods that are loaded with carbohydrates that feed yeast.

No matter what you are feeding your dog, when you add a few simple supplements to their foods, like digestive enzymes as well as prebiotics and probiotics, you can further eliminate your dog's bad odor.

3. Try Feeding Raw Food

If not homemade dog food cooking, then raw dog food diet that consists of mostly meat and is more appropriate for a dog's digestion is great. One dog trainer, Nancy Strouss from People Training for Dogs in New York, says that since she switched her dogs over to the raw food diet, her pack always smells good and they don’t need to be bathed as often.

Nancy also notes that her dogs are less prone to ear infections, which is another common cause of bad odors in dogs. The new upgraded diet for her dogs keeps their teeth free from tartar, equating to healthier gums and good breath.

She believes that many dogs smell bad because their bodies are constantly detoxifying the poor quality, unnatural ingredients in many processed pet foods, and she's not wrong. Veterinarians noticed how often many dog food brands give pets gas and otherwise make them smell worse.

Coconut Oil for Improved Digestion and Coat Health

4. Coconut Oil for Improved Digestion and Coat Health

There are many benefits that coconut for dogs provides, and one of the main ones is improved digestion when fed and better coat, skin, hair, ear hygiene when used topically.

Bruce Fife, author of the very popular Coconut Cures and some other books, says that there have been many reports on how virgin coconut oil reduces or even eliminates disagreeable odors in pets – probably because of the oil’s antimicrobial properties.

Coconut oil kills many harmful fungi and bacteria both internally and externally, and is harmless to friendly gut bacteria in dogs. For pets, the recommended dose is 1 teaspoon coconut oil per 10 pounds of body weight daily, in divided doses. It's best to start with small amounts and increase to the recommended dose.

5. Green Herbs Prevent Odor in Dogs

Consider adding deodorizing herbs and spices to food. Wheatgrass or parsley have chlorophyll in them – these help to deodorize a dog's breath and skin from the inside out.

Other sweet spices such as cloves and cinnamon can be ground and added to your pet’s food to help improve digestion and eliminate body odors.

About ¼-teaspoon of herbs per 10 pounds of body weight per day and about ¼ teaspoon ground spices per 25 pounds of body weight per day is recommended.

Proper Dental Care

6. Proper Dental Care

A dog's breath tend to smell bad but it doesn't have to. When you stick to a proper oral care routine and keep your dog’s teeth and gums clean, you'll ensure a better breath.

There's many ways to accomplish this, but the most important is teeth brushing. Get a dog toothbrush and toothpaste, and do it once a day, before bedtime. You can also use coconut oil to clean your pet's teeth, even with a bit of sea salt and/or baking soda.

Some pet supply stores sell gauze wipes that contain tooth-cleaning chemicals. A natural one is to wrap your finger with gauze and then dip it in saltwater and clean the dog’s teeth that way.

Other “easier” methods to keep your dog's breath fresh is water additives and dental gels.

7. Holistic Essential Oils Can Work

Not all essential oils are safe for dogs, but those that are could be extremely effective when used as part of your aromatherapy for dogs, naturally making your dog smell fresh throughout the day and between baths.

Some essential oils you can try include:

  • Lavender
  • Copaiba
  • Frankincense
  • Peppermint
  • Petitgrain

Surveys have shown that more and more vets use essential oils for many different reasons, anything from calming dogs to making them smell better.

Coat and Fur Care and Deodorizing

8. Coat and Fur Care and Deodorizing

Brush or comb your dog’s coat each day to remove old hair, fur and debris that has lodged in your pup's hair. By brushing, it helps to distribute the natural oils to keep the dog's coat healthier, shinier and smelling fresher.

To further freshen up your dog's coat (other than bathing with shampoo and using conditioner after), you can spray the dog's skin with a fragrant herbal tea such as chamomile, lavender, or peppermint. They're natural and harmless. Another less natural option is to use a dog deodorant.

9. Well-timed Bathing and Shampooing

It is by now well-known but still constantly stressed by vets that dog owners shouldn’t use people products for bathing dogs. Furthermore, over-bathing a dog could also make them smell worse due to lack of natural oils afterwards.

Dogs should be bathed from the neck down without getting water in their ears. Depending on your pet’s coat type, skin condition and current smell, a bath might be appropriate once a week. Use a mild dog shampoo, and preferably an oatmeal-based shampoo. Oatmeal has been shown as more effective and it won’t dry out your dog’s skin.

How to Keep Your Dog Smelling Fresh Between Baths

How to Keep Your Dog Smelling Fresh Between Baths

Other than the tips above, there are a few tools you can use to keep your dog smelling fresh between baths. The three approaches that I like the most are:

  1. kin+kind Dog Deodorizing Spray. This features plant-based ingredients and essential oils. It is veterinarian formulated to be safe and is non-GMO, vegan, and certified Leaping Bunnycruelty-free.
  2. Aromatherapy freshening spray. As an alternative, you can try this vet approved essential oils-based spray with chamomile and lavender.
  3. Earth rated wipes. Using organic scented dog wipes like these is an easy way to quickly clean up your pooch and refresh their smell once a day.

If you don't want to spend money on commercial products, you can make some sprays and shampoos by yourself. For example, here's an easy DIY remedy which you can try making at home. And here’s a delightful rosemary-mint spray. Finally, how about a vinegar spray? It will prove fresh and deodorizing for your dog.

Lastly, if your dog continues to have an unpleasant odor, and all the above commercial products and DIY remedies for dog smell aren't enough to combat the bad odor, it is recommended you seek a vet's help. This could be a medical condition as well.

READ NEXT: How to Make Bathing a Dog Easier (And Some Unique Tools You Can Use)

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The 9 Ways to Make Your Dog Always Smell Fresh

Katherine is certified in Domestic Animal Sciences and Animal Grooming with primary focus on dogs. She has had her pet canine, Anastasia, for two years now, who is also her ESA service dog. Katherine has written multiple articles about pets and their grooming, and has knowledge on multiple specialty pet grooming products for dogs.